Oil refiners have been hit today with a double dose of bad news. Over the past three months, stocks in refiners are up from 26% to 78% as the companies have managed to keep product prices from falling too fast and maintained margins even as crude prices started to rise. Valero Energy Corp. (NYSE: VLO) even posted a new 52-week high last week.
Today, though, analysts at Citigroup have dropped their rating on three of the largest refiners: Valero, Phillips 66 (NYSE: PSX) and Marathon Petroleum Corp. (NYSE: MPC). Ratings on all three were lowered from ‘buy’ to ‘neutral’, even though Citi’s analysts also raised share price targets. HollyFrontier Corp. (NYSE: HFC), Tesoro Corp. (NYSE: TSO), and Western Refining Inc. (NYSE: WNR) were also caught up in the downdraft. All these refiners have put up new yearly highs since the beginning of September.
The downgrades hurt, and led to some profit-taking in the refiners, although none is showing unusual volume today.
The rise in WTI crude prices to near $100 a barrel the fear is that margins will get trimmed now that the summer driving season is over even though gasoline inventories remain relatively low. Refiners were also hurt recently by shutdowns related to Hurricane Isaac and some plants continue to struggle to reopen.
Valero stock is down about 4.5% today, at $32.24 in a 52-week range of $16.40 to $34.36.
Phillips 66 stock is down 0.9% at $46.33 in a 52-week range of $28.75 to $48.22.
Marathon’s shares are down 4.2% at $53.27 in a 52-week range of $26.35 to $56.22.
HollyFrontier stock is down 1.7% at $41.25 in a 52-week range of $21.13 to $42.00.
Tesoro’s shares are down 0.9% at $40.47 in a 52-week range of $17.43 to $41.64.
Western Refining stock is down 2.5% at $26.40 in a 52-week range of $11.17 to $28.04.
For comparison, the United States Gasoline Fund (NYSEMKT: UGA) is down 3.7% at $58.76 in a 52-week range of $44.65 to $61.95.